Researchers at Wake Forest have begun testing a brain implant on monkeys that has caused a marked increase in their memory. The scientists tested the technology by showing the monkeys an image of a toy, a person, or a mountain range. The monkeys were then required to choose the same image from a larger group of images that appeared on the same screen a little while later. After two years of practice the monkeys were answering correctly about 75% of the time on easier matches and 40% on harder matches. The monkeys were fitted with a probe that recorded the neural pathways they used in deciding their answer. The researches then determined the neural pathway used when the monkeys answered correctly. After placing the implant in their neural cortex, the researchers would stimulate the “correct” response neural pathway of the monkeys during testing; causing a 10% increase in correct answers. The researchers then gave the monkeys cocaine to intentionally cause an increase in incorrect responses. Despite the cocaine, when researchers would stimulate the “correct” response neural pathway there was an increase in right responses by the monkeys.
However, the technology is still far from marketable. Dr. Sam A. Deadwlyer of Wake Forest said the “whole idea is that the device would generate an output pattern that bypasses the damaged area, providing an alternative connection.” Because decision-making and memory are multifaceted processes, which involve many neural circuits, the use of a device that only influences one circuit is of limited use. “But not long ago, even a simple neural prosthesis would have seemed like science fiction.”
My question is, as technology develops which will allow doctors to not only repair damaged organs but also enhance them should the government regulate who can receive the enhancements? Or, would such enhancements be considered a freedom of expression or another fundamental right?